Thursday, August 30, 2018

Too Many Husbands

The Fred MacMurray Blogathon is an event in tribute to the life and career of the actor, hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. For a complete list of participating blogs, visit the host site at the link.

Too Many Husbands
YouTube viewing

Fred MacMurray is best remembered as a comedic actor and a good guy, but I tend to think of him, in cinematic terms, as a bad guy. It's all Billy Wilder's fault, for casting him in two dramatic films, Double Indemnity and The Apartment, where he plays scumbags.

The latter film in particular is a good example. He takes advantage of both Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, less as a sneering villain and more with a deceptive charm. He uses them to serve his own ends and he comes across so reasonably in the process; his perpetual nice-guy image is turned inside out. Double may be his most popular film role, but I think The Apartment is his best.

And then there's My Three Sons. The early TV sitcom gave MacMurray's career a second wind, lasting twelve seasons. There's little more than snippets of the show on YouTube, but I watched them for this blogathon. The impression I get is Sons was warm and gentle. The kids seemed unrealistically well-behaved, but gosh, maybe MacMurray's character was just that good a father. A single one, no less.

Perhaps you know MacMurray played the saxophone. He played in a few bands while attending college in Wisconsin. He also sang a little. Here he is in 1930, singing with Gus Arnheim and the Coconut Grove Orchestra.

And I would be remiss if I forgot the comics connection. Remember Captain Marvel? Little kid says "Shazam," turns into an adult superhero? (Perhaps this trailer for the forthcoming Shazam film will jog your memory.) Co-creator CC Beck modeled CM on MacMurray. Once you see it, you can't un-see it.

Today's subject, Too Many Husbands, is an early MacMurray comedy that's more of a vehicle for the delightful Jean Arthur. Drowned at sea and believed dead, MacMurray survives and returns home a year later only to find Arthur, his wife, moved on without him and married his best friend, Melvyn Douglas.

Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt needed less than ten minutes to settle this problem in Cast Away. Arthur and company take an entire movie, though in fairness, the whole thing is as fluffy as a pillow.

It's watchable, thanks to Arthur; MacMurray and Douglas just bicker and make goo-goo eyes at her. Would you believe Irene Dunne and Cary Grant made essentially the same movie, My Favorite Wife, in the same year, 1940?

Other Fred MacMurray movies:
Remember the Night
Double Indemnity


  1. It is funny how often the same idea pops up in entertainment and we get a rash of movies or shows with the same plot or theme. Too Many Husbands isn't as well known as My Favorite Wife, but the trio of Arthur - MacMurray - Douglas are smooth at silk at the screwball game.

    My Three Sons is actually a lot more quirky than those clips you saw seem to have indicated. If you get a chance, skim this old piece of mine:

  2. You may be right about SONS. I saw one clip where MacMurray's character is at a stag party and he awkwardly converses with the kinky dancer!

  3. This sounds like my kind of fluff – er, movie. I'd never heard of it before, but I see a copy on YouTube. Thanks!

  4. It's worth seeing for Jean Arthur if nothing else.

  5. Oh my, God, thank you so much for adding this video of MacMurray singing in 1930! It was so great to hear it!
    I think Disney MacMurray is more of a curiosity - or something you'll enjoy more if you watch it with children.
    Thanks for the kind comment!

  6. If I hadn't known that song was sung by MacMurray, I never would've guessed just from hearing it. Glad you liked it.

  7. Dear Rich,

    This is a really good review! I have read about this movie, but I haven't seen it. I have seen its musical remake, "Three for the Show" from 1955, which I don't think is very good and watch occasionally only because of Jack Lemmon. This original must have been better, since the lack of the weak musical numbers and the replacement of Betty Grable with Jean Arthur in such a role must be an improvement! I really like the information you provided about Fred MacMurray. You are a very good and thorough writer.

    By the way, I would like to invite you to join "The Second Annual Great Breening Blogathon." This blogathon, which will be taking place on October 12-17, is a celebration of the Code, its Era, and its enforcer, Joseph I. Breen. We are using this blogathon to honor Joseph Breen on his 130th birthday, which would have been on October 14. However, we are extending the blogathon to October 17 to celebrate the second anniversary of PEPS, which was founded on October 17, 2016. You can participate by breening a film that is not from the Breen Era (1934-1954) or by analyzing a Code films. You can also discuss an aspect of the Code, its influence on Hollywood, or Mr. Breen itself. You can find out more and join here:

    I would also like to invite you to join a blogathon which my sister, Rebekah, is hosting in November. On November 9-11, PEPS is hosting the Claude Rains Blogathon in honor of this marvelous actor's 129th birthday on November 10. You can read the announcements and sign up here:

    I hope that you'll be able to join! We could really use your talents.

    Yours Hopefully,

    Tiffany Brannan


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